Today, I’ll be addressing an important sentence structure rule, because it’s important to know this, when forming your sentences in Japanese. There are quite a number of rules to remember, but this one is pretty important, if you’re going to form your own sentences and create your own conversations with other people. But first, let me ask you, do you remember how to count to 10? What about to 20? You do? Ok, then tell me, how do you ask someone about their age? If you don’t remember, then let me remind you.
Do you remember how to say it? Ok, let me tell you. It is “nan-sai-desu-ka” but remember the “u” in “desu” is silent, so it really should be “nan-sai-des-ka”.
Ok great, next part, do you remember how to say “I am … years old”? Let’s take a look at how it’s written down, in ひらがな.
わたしは … さいです
Now, remember how to say this sentence? It is “wa-ta-shi-wa … sai-de-su”. Are you following? Good, now, if you can’t remember how to count to 20, then revise my last blog post, because I explain it there.
Alright, since we know how to ask how old we are, and answer the question, and count up to 20, let’s take a look at more numbers, that way, for those of us over the age of 20, we can answer the question.
A Note On Structure
Regarding the answer, “わたしは … さいです”, notice how the romaji turns the は kana into the phonetic sound “wa”. This is because the は part of the sentence is a particle. It means that the word attached to the は is the topic of a sentence. It’s like saying “I am” or “it is”. Essentially, it’s a topic marker. Now, in English, we don’t have such things as topic markers, because we already infer the topic, with the subject.
Here, let me show you. Let’s use the sentence “I am 20 years old”. So, let’s break down the sentence.
I = Subject am = Verb 20 years old= Object
With me so far? In English, our sentence structure is what is known as the SVO structure, where the subject goes first, the verb second, and the object last. So, “I am 27 years old” makes sense in English. Now, let’s look at the Japanese version:
Alright, let’s break this down.
わたし = Subject にじゅうななさい = Object です = Verb
So, the Japanese, like many other languages use the SOV structure, whereby the Subject comes first, the Object second, and the Verb last. This is why they need a topic marker, to distinguish what is being discussed.
Literally translated, the sentence sounds like this:
I 27 years old am.
It doesn’t make sense, right? That’s why there’s a topic marker in は, to help distinguish what the subject is. So when you say わたしは, you’re saying “I – the subject”. Now, why do they pronounce it as “wa” instead of “ha”? Basically, the use of the kana changed over time, and eventually, は became “ha” after World War II, because the Japanese government wanted to “renew the spelling roles” of the kana. You can learn more about this change and why は is said as “wa” in a sentence, in this video! It’s very insightful!
Lastly, let’s take a look at the verb, which is just the word です. Now, です literally is the verb “to be”, but when in a sentence becomes attached to the subject, so if I say わたしはにじゅうななさいです the です part literally means “am” or “are” or “is”. It isn’t like what you’d use in English or any other Latin-based languages, like Spanish, where you need to conjugate a verb, so it makes sense for the thing or person you’re talking about. You could use it for other people. So, you could say “you are 10 years old” using です:
So, です can be used in any sentence that requires the verb “to be”, and for anything and anyone.
Ok, so I think that’s enough theory and grammar talk, continue to practice saying how old you are and asking other how old they are, so that you can get the pronunciation right.
Well, that’s it from me today, I’ll see you guys next time. For now, don’t forget to like, subscribe and follow for more updates and the latest posts here on Feather’s Charm and on my social media accounts. Oh, and share these posts with family and friends, those who you’d think might enjoy these topics and tips! I’ll see you later!